https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/18/cyclone-yasa-two-die-in-fiji-as-storm-hits-second-largest-island

Fiji’s latest cyclone: A wakeup call for leaders in the climate crisis

By:
Shivani Jeet (shivaniidevikaa)

It’s been 5 years since world leaders signed the Paris Agreement to set a goal for keeping global temperatures from rising above levels that could have devastating consequences for the earth. 

Experts have mentioned that “commitments put forward by the international community already improved the long-term look outlook on climate change”, but the outcomes of natural disasters these recent years say otherwise -- and a lot of this blame can be put on the lack of leadership from wealthy nations and their leaders.

Each year, we see nations on fire, (literally), we see small islands that aren’t as populated or ‘ghost towns’ being swept beneath the ocean due to rising sea levels, we see glaciers melting, animals becoming endangered, and natural disasters getting worse by the second. 

While places like Australia, the Amazon rainforest, and California have made major headlines on the topic of climate disasters, it’s important to note that many developing nations, especially islands, have been dealing with the climate consequences for decades now. 

“The places with the least level of economic development are certainly in line to feel the impacts with the greatest degree, partially just due to their geographic fate — or their location — but more so based on the socio-economic and governance factors,” - Niall Smith 

Fiji is a country with bright blue waters and palm-shaped coconut trees. Bula Spirit is my people’s way of wishing you happiness, good light, and good energy, despite the fact that our home has long been facing the consequences of the climate crisis for years. 

For the past four years, Fiji’s been hit with numerous Category 4+ cyclones, and while this is nothing new to my people given that December is cyclone season, this is an extreme wake-up call for what small islands are having to continuously face due to the lack of action towards climate change by world leaders. 

Just last week, Cyclone Yasa was the second largest storm to hit the Southeast Pacific this year and while many were spared from the cyclone, those residing in Vanua Levu (Fiji’s second largest island) had their homes, schools, and many other areas destroyed.

While the storm has passed over major tourist attractions and is moving towards outer Fiji islands, Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama warned of flooding from rainfall near small villages.

Fiji’s been facing environmental challenges for as long as I can remember, and has long been the target of warmer temperatures and rising sea levels. At the same time, many other islands have experienced the same thing, and have even disappeared entirely over the past few years.  

Before immigrating to Canada, many family members of mine survived heavy rainfalls, cyclones, flooding and much more -- all a result of climate change. They’ve seen the roofs of their homes blown away by heavy winds, rivers rise and tear down bridges, and floods blocking roads to prevent no escape. 

These stories have been passed down in my family since the ‘70’s - long before the first report First Assessment Report on Climate Change (IPCC) was completed in 1990.

Many other islands residing in the Indian Ocean including Maldives, Caribbean, Haiti, Manila are in need of resources and all the support they can get. 

With oceans warming and glaciers melting much faster, storms will become more severe, and many will lose their homes and be forced to evacuate for their land.

Climate disasters are in fact a direct link to theclimate emergency since climate hazards are linked to weather, which includes flooding, cyclones, hurricanes, severe storms, heavy rainfalls and droughts. 

Just in the last 20 years, climate disasters have doubled according to a UN Report conducted this year. For many, it is a life and death scenario, especially if leaders across the globe are leaving out developing nations from conversations on how important it is to combat and exceed the Paris Agreement goals.

This is especially relevant when one of the key goals is to limit global warming temperatures, which adversely impact island nations due to their land being surrounded by the sea.

While calls for action are being demanded by the latest wave of global climate change protests, island leaders have been at the forefront of asking for changes from leaders for many years, but have often not made climate emergency headlines.

Island nations have it worse because of their ocean-fronted borders, and occupying small lands. As sea levels continue to rise, many communities are threatened, and with their voices being silenced or ignored, it soon may be too late to combat the effects of our climate crisis. 

It's time to start paying attention.

To learn more about how climate change is affecting the Pacific Islands, please watch this video.

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About the Author: Shivani is a General Studies student transferring to Criminology to land a job in the legal field to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She is an intersectional feminist, mental health and sexual assault advocate, loves to invest her free time in a good read, and enjoys writing poetry.

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